• QA 165
    How has the Central American coffee industry changed in recent years in the face of new consumption tendencies?
    I'm currently writing an analysis on how the Central American coffee industry has changed over the past few years. I'd like to emphasize what the new tendencies in coffee consumption are and how local producers could improve their competitiveness on the international arena.
    Asked by:
    Financial journalist - Guatemala

    The Coffee Guide Project does not normally provide briefings of this type but, briefly... , we would suggest that the major change is in the way coffee is presented and marketed.

    Many Central American coffee producers are actively exploiting the growing specialty coffee market, resulting in increased exports of better quality coffee and somewhat higher prices for quite a number of them.

    Strong growth in the specialty coffee market, particularly in the US but also in Japan and Europe, has been driven by imaginative marketing and publicity initiatives from both producers and roasters.  This has caused many growers to engage more directly with end-users and vice-versa and, as a result, there is now better appreciation for end-user preferences and the need for 'quality'. In this respect the most remarkable initiative probably was the creation of what is today called the Cup of Excellence through The Gourmet Coffee Project. * This combines annual in-country competitions to select the best coffees with Internet auctions to sell the winning parcels.

    These have generated huge interest in 'quality' amongst coffee growers throughout Latin America. Of course one should always bear in mind that specialty coffee by itself represents only a small part of the global coffee market, something in the order of ten percent or so. Thus no coffee producing country can afford to ignore what is commonly called 'the mainstream market'. Nevertheless, Latin America's close proximity to the US and the active involvement of producers and their organizations are ensuring a strong showing in the growing specialty market segment - for more information go to www.cupofexcellence.org.

    The excellent 'Coffee Map' produced by the Guatemalan National Coffee Association, Anacafe - www.guatemalancoffees.com is another example of how Central American producers have also mobilized great point-of-sale PR materials and are 'marketing' themselves. We would also draw attention to growing end-user interest in knowing where and how coffee is produced, and how some countries are responding to this through the use of GPS and GIS systems. See www.dominicancoffee.com; www.guatemalancoffees.com; and http://edcintl.cr.usgs.gov/geocafe/ for more information.

    * The Gourmet Coffee Project was a joint undertaking by the International Coffee Organization (ICO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC), operators of this website, with funding provided by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC). To learn more about this go to www.tradeforum.org and search for Cup of Excellence. Obviously recent information is to be found at www.cupofexcellence.org but the articles in question provide a good background and overview.

    Posted 14 September 2007.

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